I love kid talk. Especially the talk of the littlest ones. Most of the time it doesn’t make sense. It is usually blurted from the context of their own minds. Then, we as adults have to constantly try to catch up and figure out what that context is to figure out what they really want us to know. Their talk is filled with imagination. Superheroes, unicorns, bumps, food, owwies, and on and on the conversation goes from their world of fantasy mixed with reality.
As children grow, so does their talking ability. Things become a little more complex, although not necessarily less silly. The stories they tell become more elaborate and increasingly coherent. It is truly a wonder to watch this develop in a child. Through this conversation, whether it be with others or simply self-talk, kids are shaping their view of the world. Through learning a joke, talking sports, imagining crazy scenarios, or chattering about favourite whatevers, kids are learning what life is all about. But they are not learning this on their own.
The conversations of others around them are shaping them too. From the earliest ages, the talk of their parents is most influential. As children grow, the direct influence of parents lessens. Other children, youth and adults contribute more and more along with the broader culture. As adults, we have the power to shape the world views of children with our speech.
The spoken and written word is a very powerful thing. James 3:9 says, “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” Our words can cut deeply, arouse passion and creativity, stimulate wonder, leave a sense of loneliness or rejection or model boredom and apathy. Let’s use that power for good as we speak God’s words of life and freedom.
Kids are talking. They want to be heard. They reflect what they think others wants to hear. They long for conversation and connection. We all have a deep and powerful craving for belonging and relationship. If we don’t have it, there is a gnawing on our souls. When we do have it, it’s like we obtain supernatural leaping abilities! It’s why we talk. Some of us talk more than others, but we all talk to gain relational connection.
If kids grow up (and it happens so fast) without deep and meaningful connections, they begin to feel deep hurt. Then, they respond either with aggressive outbursts and rebellion or turn inward to mask and mute the pain.
That is why we must now engage in conversations with our children and youth. Parents only have limited influencing power, which they must leverage as much as possible. But parents are not alone. The church is a partner with them. Parents need to seek outside influences who will say the same kinds of things they are saying. They need to tap into individuals who will also come alongside to influence their child to maturity in Christ.
A natural way to do this is by connecting with our children’s and youth ministry volunteers. Get to know them. Invite them over for dinner so they can see your child outside of the church walls. Talk about at home what the leader is talking about in church. You may also be sensing that God is nudging you to take a plunge by volunteering. For those of you who are really looking to make a difference there are many opportunities at church to interact with and chat with kids. The best opportunities are for those who have the courage and resolve to serve weekly and connect throughout the week.
As kids talk, may we listen. Then, may we, by God’s power, engage them in conversations that stir up the truths of eternity leading to transformed lives.